Oblivion stars Tom Cruise as Jack Harper, a veteran commander assigned to Earth with the task of repairing drones after the planet became a desolate wasteland after ‘The War’. On a routine patrol, he discovers a crashed spacecraft with a lone survivor – and everything he thought he knew changes forever.
Director Joseph Kosinski made an impact in 2010 with the visually stunning Tron Legacy, and his skills in visual effects are once again put to great use: Oblivion has many scenes that perfectly convey an abandoned earth. Unfortunately (but not unsurprisingly) that’s the only real positive it has. It begins promisingly, with intrigue as to what is occurring, and it’s great to see New York landmarks engulfed by the earth. But it plods on at its own achingly slow pace, with Cruise looking glum on a colourless canvas. Morgan Freeman is prominent on some posters, but don’t be fooled: his screen time is less than twenty minutes. As legendary as he is, Freeman isn’t challenged by this role, and is just going through the motions. British born actress Andrea Riseborough does the best she can, and her chemistry with Cruise is better than anticipated. The same cannot be said for Olga Kurylenko who plays Julia, the crash survivor who’s talent perished in the landing.
To its credit, Oblivion isn’t totally devoid of entertainment: there’s a select few sequences of action that thoroughly entertain, and give a glimpse at what the film could have been. Unfortunately, these are far too infrequent, and the film is padded out with drawn out dialogue and a dull subplot involving Julia. This narrative strand ends in a twist that can be seen from a mile away, and it’s not the only occurrence of it: Oblivion tries so hard to cram as many potential plot points with twists that they distract from an overall goal for Harper. The worst offender, and one that made me lose any interest or care in the character, comes just over an hour in – of course, I’m not going to give it away here, but if you’ve seen a certain sci-fi great from 2009, it’ll anger you too.
While it’s not a complete waste of time, Oblivion spends too much time on its destroyed surroundings and ultimately striking visuals that it compromises on a coherent plot and characters that we care about. It’s not like it didn’t have the time to do such a thing: the runtime is an excessive 125 minutes. It’s a passable Sci-Fi experience, but won’t stay with you past the drive home.